TORONTO, ONTARIO: The highest form of flattery is imitation, or so they say. Now, this might be the sign of a mental illness – a break from reality – but I have a tendency to obsess over interesting people and for a limited amount of time, emulate certain aspects of their personality, positive or otherwise. The suggestion of a mental illness is appropriate since I have never met any of these people. Some examples.
Raiders of the Lost Ark was the first movie I ever saw. The melting faces in the climactic scene when the Nazi’s opened the Ark of the Covenant was probably not suitable for my naïve eyes but the movie was a revelation. I reenacted scenes from the movie in my bedroom and even found an old fedora that looked ridiculous on me. To this day, I carry a satchel with me everywhere I go that holds the essentials: Writing utensils, books and newspapers. Granted, some might call this a purse, some a man purse and others a murse. I refer to it as my Indiana Jones satchel. He used it to carry the treasures he found, the important artifacts that were the key to his adventures. I’m using it for the same thing, right?
Ricky Gervais has a podcast with Stephen Merchant and a bloke named Karl Pilkington. I have seen everything Mr. Gervais has made and listened to every podcast. I wouldn’t dare try to speak in a fake British accent but I did insert ‘bloke’ and ‘bullocks’ into every conversation where it would remotely fit.
David Foster Wallace was a writer that I admire. For a brief stint, I tried writing about highly intellectual concepts and using short forms like b/t/w and w/r/t, laying down long sentences and paragraphs that seemed to go on forever in an attempt to emulate this brilliant man, but in doing so, realized that there was no possible way I could match the brain power, thought process or methods of application that this very smart individual was able to capture and after putting pen to paper with some poorly written self-indulgent and grammatically incorrect paragraphs that were nothing more than just long paragraphs with bad grammar, I did the smart thing and gave up.
David Sedaris is a good read. He has the right amount of humour and poignancy. I started listening to some audiobooks and was especially taken with his live performances. He has a monotone voice but uses in an interesting way. It seems as though he is saying (with a wink), “why are you laughing, I’m trying to tell you something serious here.” My voice is pretty monotone already so I didn’t have much to do in this instance. The problem is that Sedaris is performing and it seems strange when I am talking to someone and enunciating every single word equally. I don’t get as many laughs as he does. None, in fact.
Recently, I became a fan of the television show House. I was late coming to the show and I usually don’t go for this kind of hospital drama. But I enjoy the acting chops of Hugh Laurie and the crotchety character he has created. I knew I watched the show too much when I was walking down the street with a friend and they asked if I had hurt my leg. After my replied look of confusion, my friend said, “well, you’re limping.”
Either I am a total nerd or something is chemically unbalanced. What does this mean? Am I searching for who I am through emulating these other people? By shedding multiple personalities like a snake sheds skin, am I trying to fool myself in some illogical way? The strange thing is that I do not acquire the sense of humour of Gervais or Sedaris, the courage of Indiana Jones or the confidence of House. I only take on their physical ticks and believe in some bizarre way this will have an effect on my life. The only thing that I see as a connection between these fictional characters is their infallibility. They are insecure, crippled, arrogant. It is these very qualities that makes them iconic and memorable.
Remember, I am 32 years old and completely aware of what I’m doing – most of the time. Generally, now, I take on idiosyncrasies of the characters I create. I want to get into their heads and understand what makes them work. Let’s call it method-writing. In attempting to determine whether this is a very real psychological problem or a bit of play-acting from someone that did want to be an actor at some point in their life, I will just go with the latter. Besides, I have not seen a convincing psychologist in a movie or television show that I could emulate and diagnose myself. Until then, I’ll strap on my satchel, it’s better than carrying around a whip and revolver.